Statement of the International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) – Canada on the February 24 arson attack on displaced Lumads in Davao City

Aquino Government Responsible for the Attack on Displaced Lumads in Davao City

The International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) – Canada condemns in the strongest terms the February 24 arson attack on displaced Lumad people sheltering in a church compound in Davao City.

We hold the government of President Benigno Aquino III responsible for this crime which injured 5 Lumad evacuees and destroyed properties estimated at 900,000 pesos.

The February 24 arson attack on Haran Mission House of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines is part of the state-sanctioned attacks and campaign of terror that the military and paramilitary groups under its command have been waging against the Lumads. Under the guise of its counter-insurgency program, Operation Plan Bayanihan, Aquino’s government has escalated military operations in Lumad villages to break their resistance to corporate mining and other resource development on their lands.

The 700 Manobos who have been living at Haran Mission since early 2015 fled their villages in Talaingod and Kapalong towns in Davao del Norte and Bukidnon provinces after soldiers and military-based militia occupied their communities and community schools.

The evacuees who are drawing public attention to the brutal war that the Aquino government is waging in remote Lumad villages are subjected to continuing harassment and pressure to return to their villages. In July 2015, 15 evacuees were injured during a raid conducted by police and Cotabato Congresswoman Nancy Catamco to force them back to their villages. Catamco accused the Lumad of being fake refugees, trafficked by front groups for communist rebels.

We stand with the Lumad in their struggle for self-determination and their right to their ancestral domain. In solidarity, we demand:

•The immediate investigation of the incident to be conducted by an independent body;
•An end to the continued harassment and intimidation of Lumad in and out of their communities;
•The immediate pullout of government troops from the Lumad communities;
•The disbandment of all paramilitary groups;
•The Philippine Government to withdraw its counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, which victimizes innocent and unarmed civilians; and
•The Philippine Government to adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the major Human Rights instruments that it is a party and signatory

We call on the Canadian Government to review Canada’s relation with the government of President Aquino. Canada should not compromise its commitment to human rights by uncritically supporting a brutally repressive regime and perpetrator of heinous human rights violations. As immediate steps, we call on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

•to withdraw Canada’s support for the Philippine government’s security policy which provides justification for the counter-insurgency program, Operation Plan Bayanihan; and
•to end all military support to the Philippine government include sale of military weapons and equipment and training for the military and police.